School Leadership Transitions

September 22, 2006

To Members of the Faculty and Staff:

Last academic year was one of changes in the Provost's Office. I myself started a little over a year ago; since then, Professors Claude R. Canizares, Lorna J. Gibson, and Philip S. Khoury have all assumed new responsibilities in the office. Through these significant transitions, the academic business of MIT has proceeded smoothly, and we have continued to explore exciting new opportunities in teaching and research. Much of the credit for this smooth transition goes to our School Deans, whose expertise and wisdom made it possible for us to move ahead without disruption.

I am particularly grateful for the contributions of Deans Thomas L. Magnanti, Richard Schmalensee, and Robert J. Silbey. When I became Provost, I learned that they looked forward to stepping down from their deanships in the near future to pursue academic interests they had put aside for some time while shouldering the demanding responsibilities of School leadership. At my request, Deans Magnanti and Silbey generously agreed to stay on through last academic year to help with the transition. Dean Schmalensee wished to stay through this academic year to ensure continued progress on plans for the new building for the MIT Sloan School of Management. I am grateful to all of them for delaying their own plans in favor of MIT's and their Schools' best interests. Now, however, the time has come for them to pursue what they delayed, and they plan to step down this academic year.

The individual and collective contributions of Deans Magnanti, Schmalensee, and Silbey as School leaders have been enormous. Here, I would like to highlight just some of the accomplishments that their extraordinary commitment to MIT has made possible.

One of MIT's thirteen Institute Professors, Tom Magnanti has brought to his work as Dean of the School of Engineering since January 1999 a deep commitment to leadership through technical excellence and innovation. A strong advocate of educational innovation, Tom oversaw as Dean the creation of eleven new degree programs including new undergraduate majors in Biological Engineering, Chemical-Biological Engineering, and Mechanical and Ocean Engineering. His special interest in outreach activities has led to new weekend and summer programs for school-aged children based on the successful MITES model, and to new programs for increasing interest in technology among high school girls. A champion of faculty and student diversity, Tom has made the MIT School of Engineering a role model for others. Under his stewardship, the School hired 119 new faculty members and moved into the most exciting new areas of engineering. As Dean, Tom has also focused on industrial and international partnerships and helped lead the development of major partnerships with both Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft as well as MIT's pioneering collaborations with Singapore, the Singapore-MIT Alliance and the soon-to-be-created SMART Center. On Tom's watch, the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, iCampus, the Professional Education Program, and the Undergraduate Professional Opportunities Program were founded, and the Lemelson-MIT Program moved to the School of Engineering; all are flourishing.

Last week, President Hockfield announced that we would move forward with construction for the new building for MIT Sloan. Catalyzing the development of this ambitious and much-needed facility is just one of the many accomplishments that have marked Dick Schmalensee's time as the School's John C. Head III Dean since July 1998. Under his leadership, MIT Sloan's finances and administration were restructured to give the School necessary financial and operational flexibility while maintaining close coupling with the rest of MIT. These have also been years of educational innovation: the MBA program was significantly overhauled and enhanced, and the strongest features of the Sloan Fellows and Management of Technology mid-career programs were combined in the new MIT Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership. The recently launched undergraduate minor in Management has already become the largest minor at the Institute. International programs, including the China Management Education Project and the Global Entrepreneurship Laboratory, have gone from strength to strength, and executive education programs have expanded dramatically, while the MIT Leadership Center provides a new focal point for exciting research and teaching on this critical issue. MIT Sloan is stronger than ever and is poised to achieve even greater stature.

During the last six and a half years, Bob Silbey has enhanced and strengthened the core activities of the School of Science while developing key areas such as neuroscience, systems and computational biology, cancer biology, and astrophysics. Nearly one-third of the School's current faculty were hired under Bob's leadership, and he appointed the first woman to serve as department head and the first woman lab director in the School. He has overseen critical investments in facilities, including the renovation of the Dreyfus Building for the Department of Chemistry, construction of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences complex, and the development of new and renovated spaces for the Department of Physics and the Spectroscopy Laboratory. The School has also enhanced its unparalleled legacy of discovery during Bob's tenure as Dean. Faculty won four Nobel Prizes and three National Medals of Science; the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute were established; the Magellan telescope began operations in Chile; the Center for Learning and Memory became the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory; and the Center for Space Research became the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. Through all this activity, Bob himself has remained one of MIT's truly great educators, and we will soon hear final recommendations from the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons he has chaired.

It goes without saying that these bare summaries can hardly do justice to the service these three Deans have rendered to their Schools and to the Institute. I feel immensely fortunate to have worked so closely with them in recent months. Finding successors of their caliber and stature will not be easy. Fortunately, Deans Magnanti and Silbey have agreed to stay on as Dean until their successors are identified, while Dean Schmalensee will remain Dean through next June.

I will soon be appointing separate search committees for each of these three critical positions. In the meantime, feel free to send me confidential notes at my office or at (Engineering), (MIT Sloan), or (Science).

L. Rafael Reif